Posted in Parenting

It’s the First Day of School…and I Think I Need a Tylenol

I literally sit here with a coffee, a water, and a Tylenol after sending my 10 year-old off for his first day of school. My 5 year-old only starts on Friday, so it’s TV time for him right now. Mama needs a little breather. A bit of processing time.

I was up for several hours last night, fretting. Thankfully, I’m more worried than my kids are. They seem totally fine. I’ve micro-managed every detail within my power. What’s for breakfast, lunch, and supper, for the next week and a half? What’s the best deal, on every last marker and pencil crayon I can find? Does my older boy know the way to his new school? Has he practiced the route about twenty times? For the things I can’t control, like friendships, I’ve been on my knees praying. And both of my kids have a close friend in their class to sit beside. Even my Kindergartener, for whom I couldn’t make a classmate request. God arranged a girl he went to preschool with this last year to be in his class, sharing his locker, sitting next to him in school, and, if you can believe it, her family has even moved in next door. All of this by “fluke” – the teacher didn’t know they knew each other or were neighbors, when she made the seating and locker arrangements.

And although my 10 year-old lost a three year-long friendship last year, which devastated him, God provided another friendship for him to step right into. He’s seen this boy several times over the summer, both by arrangement and “coincidentally.” Come to think of it, we’ve bumped into his family several times over the past few years – at the town fireworks, at the grocery store, at church, at the museum’s summer festival. We chose the same 10-minute block for an appointment with the teacher yesterday. Also by happenstance. I’m not even surprised when we bump into them anymore. Well, of course they’re here too! I suppose I’m getting the point, God.

God’s done this with me in the past, and I’m grateful. Because I’m a little dense when it comes to this idea of “community.” I know I need people, but I’m a bit of a loner so it can be difficult for me to make friends. I’ve asked Him to build a loving community around my family. And He’s doing it, little by little. It began about three years ago, when my husband and I felt led to move away from a place that we had intended to stay, until we were old. As it turns out we were only there for five years. In a process that went very quickly, during the summer of 2018, we had sold and moved to a place we never intended to live.

No, it has not been perfect. But I see God’s hand in shaping our lives, and providing the things our kids need as they grow. Many times, this happens through the people around us. The volunteers at church who took care of them when they were little and still greet them by name whenever we see them. The schools and teachers, of course. A great street full of people. Friends for our boys, who knock on the door and ask them out to play. Other moms for me to talk to. Neighbors who are careful as they drive slowly by, waving at the children playing on the street. Who also greet my boys by name and even give them things – like hockey sticks; scooters; basketball hoops; baseball pants. As I write this, it sounds almost idyllic. It’s exactly the kind of life I prayed for, although it has happened so gradually that I sometimes take it for granted.

It has not happened over night. It’s taken patience, and persistence, but I’m starting to feel like we’re putting down roots. And that’s important.

In the midst of this, I may be sensing an identity crisis coming on. I’ve heard an older mom mention something of the sort, after her kids were all in school. It’s a feeling that, perhaps, many mothers experience – first, when they have children and say goodbye to portions of their former lives; their old ways of doing things. What was important before is no longer so crucial, because of the new little lives under their care. But eventually – though it seems, some days, like it will never happen – those little ones are packing their own bags, riding their own bikes to school, and spreading their very own wings. And then it’s time for the mother to begin to find herself again. But now, she has changed. It’s just not the same anymore. She can’t drift back into her old life. Her priorities have shifted. Her values have been altered. She may have lost some abilities or connections. But she has also gained new ones. And more importantly, she’s gained a perspective, that she didn’t have before.

Lord, I ask for a blessing over every mother that reads this, and over her children, as they begin a new school year – whether at home or away. Please provide everything that the kids need for a happy, healthy, and successful year. And please encourage and bless the mothers. Show them what and who they are to be this year, and give them the ability to fill those roles. Help them to also be able to take some time for themselves – to stay rested, healthy, and replenished. Thank you for our many blessings. May we never stop counting them.

What does the new school year look like for you and your kids? I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith, Parenting

Making the Home a Haven

As September 2019 approached, I remember asking God for a direction that I should focus on in the year that was to come. I got the distinct sense that I was to put my efforts into making our home more of a haven. This was going to involve household organization, cleaning, decluttering, and making sure I regularly had time and energy for things like cooking, doing dishes, and doing laundry. It was also going to involve being emotionally present for the people in my family – as simple, sometimes, as sitting quietly around the table with them after their long days at work and school, ready to listen and respond.

The message on the pot is self-explanatory. The plant, however, is plastic. 😉

At this point I had been a mother for 8 1/2 years, and with the progression of time, God had been steadily and stealthily peeling my clammy grip from education and career pursuits – one tightly wound finger at a time. However, choosing the home as my over-arching focus for the foreseeable future, was still not my natural bent.

And as the beginning of 2020 brought with it the commencement of a small music therapy contract, and a speaking opportunity scheduled for the upcoming fall, I began to wonder if I had heard wrong. Maybe, I would soon transition back to working outside the home.

Nonetheless, March 2020 happened. God had known that it would. Our lives outside the walls of home ground to a halt. Even my son’s schooling moved to the dining room table – and stayed there for the majority of the year. My inbox was inundated with cancellation messages. There would be no music therapy sessions to lead, no piano lessons to teach, and no speaking engagement in the fall.

The realization that God had been preparing me for that very moment filled me with gratitude and joy. I also came to understand that making the home a haven was not only important for my family – it was important for me. As a bit of what they call an “HSP” (highly sensitive person), my surrounding environment has a large effect on my mental state. When the chores get done, the laundry and dishes are put away, and there is a place for everything, with everything in its place, I am a much happier person. These things affect my husband and kids too, but probably not to such a large extent. After all, I am the one who spends the most time within these walls. I think that by directing me to take care of the home in advance, God was protecting my mental health at a time that would stretch it to the brink and back, time and time again.

If having kids has put a damper on my love for candles, electricity and batteries have renewed it! These little candle holders are from a past music therapy client, and they remind me of ice blocks. The wax warmer was a gift from my husband, and fills our home with wonderful scents.

Progress has been slow, and my home still isn’t perfectly put together. I don’t know if it ever will be. But I’ve made a lot of progress! Pandemic or not, home is important. Much time is spent there. So, it may as well be a place that you want to be.

Here are some of the ways I have been working on making our home a haven:

  • As I’ve alluded to in the past – decluttering. There is much more to say on this topic, so it will probably be its own post at some point. I’m very proud of the amount of things I’ve gotten rid of, and have been enjoying the results.
  • Decor. A few carefully chosen knick-knacks that bring me joy, an artificial plant or candle here and there, and beautiful pictures on the wall, give my eyes a place to rest; while the calm, blank spaces in between provide room for my imagination to wander.
  • Recruiting help. Should a stay-at-home-mom require the assistance of her family members to complete all of the household tasks? I won’t even begin to argue a stance on this highly controversial issue, but I will say that doing everything alone was really not working for me. So Saturdays have become housecleaning day, and everyone pitches in to get the bathrooms cleaned, mess put away, and floors vacuumed. Many hands make work light, and we are usually finished by 11 am. During the week, then, I am free to focus on other cleaning/organizing tasks, dishes, laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, taking care of the kids, and (if needed) my son’s remote learning.
  • Organization. Something as simple as $2 bins from the dollar store, to conceal my office supplies, which are all sorted into recycled jars inside the bins, has relieved much of the anxiety I used to feel about my haphazard desk area.

No home is perfect, and neither are the lives within its walls. I could regale you with stories of struggle and hardship, as anyone could. But a home can be a soft place to land, at the end of it all. It can cushion the inevitable fights and heartaches. It can bring rest to minds that are weary of chaos and unpredictability. I pray that my home would be a sacred space of peace and order, filled with the presence and protection of God. And I pray the same for yours.

How do you feel about your home? Let me know in the comments below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith, Mental health, Parenting

Decluttering, Prayer & Fasting, and Emotional Wounds: A January Update

It’s been a long time since I just wrote about what’s been happening in my life. And honestly, I am not feeling very inspired when it comes to writing blog posts! I don’t have any big ideas to share, and the things that I would want to write about, I wonder if anyone would be interested in except myself. (Maybe I’ll end up writing about them anyway.)

A big focus for me lately has been decluttering my home. This is one of the things I may write about in a future blog post. It’s been a slow process, because I get sentimental about objects and agonize over each thing that I try to get rid of. But between selling things online, donating them, and using the trash bin once in a while I am gradually getting the house to where I want it to be. The exciting part, for me, is seeing a space that was previously cluttered with junk now open and available, and making it pretty with objects that I actually want to look at each day. My husband got me an Ikea gift card for Christmas, so I am planning to use that to buy some fake plants or a new piece of furniture as a sort of reward for getting rid of so much stuff.

My church is having its annual prayer and fasting month, a topic that I wrote about more in-depth last year. It’s been quite meaningful for me thus far, and I’ve been keeping track of insights and how the Lord is guiding me in my journal. One of my main personal prayer requests is a direction for my career in the future. But in response to all my petitions God has really pressed upon my heart the huge value of making my boys my priority right now, loving on them as much as I can while I have the chance. I get a very heavy impression that this time in their lives is pivotal in the spiritual sense and will impact their futures in countless ways. This realization has renewed my strength, focus, and dedication to be what they need in a mom. It is still difficult some days, as I often wrestle with inner struggles, fatigue, boredom, and frustration.

To expand on that last word – frustration – we have reached nearly two months here in Manitoba of being under extreme restrictions due to the pandemic. I haven’t been able to see family or friends, even during Christmas, aside from a few brief curbside visits; large portions of stores are completely blocked off so that we only buy essential items; and pretty much everything else is closed. I could go on but I won’t. Suffice it to say, I am holding out for the day that I am able to go out and buy a “non-essential” 2021 calendar! I love paper calendars, I hate using the one on my phone, and I need to keep track of meals and other events somehow. I’m running out of space on the bottom of the December 2020 page…

My messy meal plan

Moving back to prayer and fasting – another topic that has come up (somewhat unexpectedly) is relationship struggles. I feel that God has shown me I have a severe wound of rejection that hinders me from being able to connect with people the way that I desire to. This wound has come from a variety of situations throughout my life. If not for God, it would have been a fatal wound. The picture that comes to mind is of several swords in my mid-section, which is cut completely open. I’m sorry if this is a disturbing image but quite honestly, I have had great peace in this realization. God is like that. He sees not only my mistakes and sins, but the pain that lies behind them, and He desires to heal me.

And if there ever were a time to practice not taking things personally, not bearing grudges, and behaving decently despite differences of opinion – it would be now!

I know there is a very real possibility of things continuing to shift and change in 2021, both worldwide and in my personal life. This sometimes causes me to fear. However, I am encouraged by another picture that came to mind during my prayer and fasting time: an earthquake, causing fractures along fault lines that were actually all there in the first place, though we may have been unaware of them. I think this has been a time of adjusting, exposing, breaking, shaking away excess, and re-considering. I know that some not-so-nice areas of myself have been revealed lately, and shown for what they are. Now, I can fight them off through prayer with the help of the Holy Spirit.

I pray that you will stay strong in the Lord this year, and I look forward to reading the posts of all my favorite bloggers as I am able to do so in the coming months.

With warmest wishes and love,

Lisa

Posted in Mental health, Parenting

Crying at the Rink

They came, finally. The tears. Yesterday, in a flood… releasing the overwhelm, frustration, and confusion that had consumed me for weeks. It felt good. My boys looked at me questioningly, as I puttered about with laundry and dishes, sobbing in between loads.

“I’m fine,” I told them, “just a little bit upset.” They nodded knowingly, with endearing concern in their eyes, before continuing on with their games and chatter.

This second lockdown has got me feeling like I am losing my mind. In addition, my church is experiencing conflicts that are dividing the congregation and resulting in hurt feelings on both sides. I have felt exhausted, emotional, invisible, and value-less.

And I finally told somebody.

“Some days are good,” I had typed in the email to her, “but I’ve had more bad days lately than I’d like to admit. Maybe you can pray for me.”

“Yes, I get it,” came the reply. “I would LOVE to pray for you.”

Was it her simple acknowledgment that my feelings were valid? The immediate effect of her prayers? Or the fact that I am learning to be more vocal about my concerns, whatever the outcome, as opposed to veiling them in some kind of ridiculous, prideful, even fearful – stoicism?

Whatever the case, I felt as though I had put down about seven suitcases full of bricks.

But I was still sad. Once the tears began, they didn’t want to stop.

“Are you coming skating?” My nine year old asked, his hope unhindered by my sorry state.

“I don’t think so,” I said deeply, through my stuffed up nose. My body and mind were weary. And the neighbors might see my tears.

“Ok,” he replied, and was off.

“Mo-om,” my youngest pleaded, “I want to go-oh.”

His persistence brought a smile to my lips. “Oh, alright,” I conceded, “let’s go.”

Ski pants. Boots. Gloves, coats, hats. Boy and skates in the wagon. Skate trainer in hand. Stepping onto the street, we squinted against the sun, and made our way to the rink.

A short time later, gliding over the ice, the cold air dried my tears, and freshened my lungs. A neighbor came to stand beside the rink and chat. Discretely, he held a cigarette between his fingers, not wanting my children to see. He was the one who had set up the rink for the community.

“I’ve seen you out here,” he said to my oldest. “I’ve seen your red jacket out here a lot.” Then, to me – “The last thing you want is to set something like this up, and have no one use it.”

A few minutes after he had returned to his house, a woman came by, walking her dog. “Having a nice skate?” she called. My boys engaged her conversation, in their typically nonchalant way.

“Can I pet your dog?”

“If you like dogs, you can pet her,” and she released the animal from its leash. We learned she was a therapy dog, and that her name was “Claire Bear”. The woman said she didn’t have children (other than Claire). She was on a walk to deliver a gift to a friend. She held a small gift bag in one hand. Later, I wondered if she lived alone (aside from Claire). What kind of loneliness must that be, at a time like this?

The skate was over too soon, even though I hadn’t wanted to come. “Let’s go home. I have to make supper.”

“What are you making?” (The daily, suspense-laden question.)

“Spaghetti.” Cheers, all around.

On the short walk home, I thought about our community. The rink. The Christmas lights. The people. My boys, and their unfettered positivity.

I felt better. All divisive issues aside, we need each other. The woman who prayed for me, the man who set up the rink, the woman with the sweet dog. Where do they stand on everything? Who knows. Who cares. One thing is for certain: we’re all in this together.

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

Mother Teresa

A simple question for today: How are you doing? Let me know in the comments.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith, Mental health, Parenting

A Letter to my Local MLA

Hello Mr. Goertzen,

I have two small requests as a stay at home mom affected by the recent school, preschool, park, church, and recreational facility closures in my home community of Steinbach.

Although I find it unfair that we are the only school division to be closed, and suspect that government motives behind this closure may have something to do with the voices of protest in our community that have recently made themselves known, I have been supportive and followed all of the rules presented to me.  I am working with my son to keep him on top of his remote learning.  I do not take an extreme stance on one side or the other on issues such as mask wearing, closures, and lock downs.  I choose to believe that for the most part, the authorities in place are doing their best with the information that is given to them, so I have complied with all of the protective measures that have been taken.

Only recently have I begun to feel like my rights are being violated.  As one of many parents who are relegated to small city yards with young children, I am wondering why the safe, outdoor, recreational opportunities in our community are shut down tight.  Although a generous neighbour on our street has set up a skating rink in the park, it is closed and cannot be used.  We also have a wonderful play structure in the same park which cannot be used.  The toboggan hills have opened up, and we are thankful for that.  We have gone sledding 4-5 times already.

I am no expert but I am aware that virus transmission outside, in open, cold air, under UV light, is extremely unlikely.  Could we not simply limit the numbers of people using a facility (such as a play structure or skating rink) at one time?  Contrary to what the media may portray, it has been my experience from living in the community of Steinbach that the vast majority of people are extremely cooperative with every restriction.  I feel that I am being slapped on the wrist for something I have not done, under the assumption that I will be uncooperative.

Another rule that I feel is extreme is not allowing drive-in church services.  I have been content (for the most part) to make do with the online services offered by my church.  But I believe it should be acknowledged that churches play an enormous role in the mental health and well being of community members, and disallowing people from visiting their places of worship and supportive communities for such a length of time is bound to have severe consequences.  I wonder how many cases of addiction, abuse, mental illness, divorce, and even suicide have been averted thanks to the wonderful work of churches in our community.  It is time to acknowledge the vital role that they play and stop viewing churches as an adversary.  Restrictions on churches need to be reasonably loosened, as soon as possible.  If I can see a doctor, purchase medications, or even buy alcohol or cannabis to help medicate my psychological and emotional struggles, I should be permitted to attend my church for the same reasons. The disallowance of even orderly, drive-in church services feels to me like blatant disregard and disrespect for their precious role in many people’s lives, not to mention acts of service towards the community such as providing free food and clothing, cleaning up garbage, sharing facilities for school graduations, sharing parking lots for school pickups and drop offs (when bussing has not been provided), etc., etc., etc.

In summation, I am asking that outdoor recreational facilities be opened for limited use in a community affected by school closures, and for some evidence that the government values churches to the point of making them more accessible to the people who need them.

Thank you for your consideration.

Posted in Mental health, Parenting

Motherhood, Music Therapy, and Mid-Life

Sometimes I think I must sound like a broken record. Whether it’s talking about how tired I am, or fretting about whether I am raising my children right, or – especially lately: What is my calling? What is my passion?

Mothering is one thing. I always knew I would do that. In my mind, it was just what would happen. It did, and has been immensely fulfilling.

But something’s still missing, because career has also, always, been dearly important to me. As a sixteen year old, I purchased a book called “Find Your Fit.” I was determined to make the right choice early on, so that money and time would not be needlessly wasted on an education I didn’t use, and so that I could go to work every day with anticipation (rather than dread).

I followed my 16 year-old passion, but perhaps not common sense. I chose and relentlessly pursued (for a time) a career in music therapy. In many ways, it did fit my personality and abilities. But timing, geography, closed doors, my own limitations, and eventually pregnancies got in the way of finding my “fit” within the tiny, highly competitive world that is music therapy (in my region, anyway).

In all honesty, I must admit that my first pregnancy and the break from my job that it necessitated, came as a relief to me. I hadn’t anticipated, in my naivety, what my day-to-day would look like. Let me sum it up for you in three words: human juke box. That is what I felt like I was. I had trained and studied for over 5 years, expecting to work on multi-disciplinary teams of professionals and accepted as one of them. In reality, my value in the workplace went so far as my singing and guitar-playing prowess (which wasn’t very far at all). I didn’t like the spotlight, or the role of amateur pop-star/entertainer. This wasn’t what I had signed up for.

Recently, I read a quote somewhere that grabbed me:

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

E. E. Cummings

It grabbed me because maybe – just, maybe – have I grown up enough to finally come to terms with who I really am? Not who I admire, or who I want to be, or even who I wish I was. But who I am.

Yet, as a tired mother, am I even able to see past my present predicament, enough to know who I am? All I want these days are slivers of time to rest, be alone, think, and pray. The remainder of my time and energy is absorbed by menial, time-specific tasks too numerous to mention, or poured into my family members as I do my best to make sure they’re ok.

An elder asked me a few months ago: “What’s your passion?” (Could there be a worse question to ask a mother?)

Napping. Maybe that’s my passion. It’s all I can think about, anyhow!

Decluttering my home. Crawling out from under this pile of rubble. Seeing the light of day again. Could that be a passion?

In response to the question I had held back tears and mumbled something about how I used to think my passion was music therapy. But now I didn’t know.

And the ridiculous things we google sometimes. Am I right? Today it was “when being a music therapist doesn’t work out.” Yes, I actually googled it. And came up with nothing, of course. Aside from some annoying article written by someone who still loves what they do. (Yes…I’m bitter. I know.)

But the people like me are out there. I’m sure of it. Maybe they’re not talking, but I’ve noticed the colleagues who have dropped off of the association email lists. The classmates I never heard from again. The university students I used to work with, who vanished into thin air. Not everyone who entered this field is still employed in it. I wonder where they are. What are they doing? Did they find their true calling? Or are they still holding out for what they started with?

Maybe my pain is intensified, because I started out loving my profession so much. Maybe I just didn’t have the right amount of time, or luck, or the skill set, or whatever it was, to get properly established in it before having a family. Now I am pushing middle age, with obligations to my time and energy that I didn’t have before. Who would hire me?

I wonder if I should become a librarian. Just think of it: a quiet building, filled with books. (Books have always been a safe place for me.) Putting them away all day. Bringing order. Smiling at people across the desk, checking out their books. Until they leave me again to my quiet building, my books, and my thoughts.

Am I a librarian at heart? Or am I simply looking for an escape from my inner (and outer) chaos?

And is my career supposed to be about me, anyway? Isn’t it about the people I wanted to help? Honestly, what brings me satisfaction, as I look back at my life thus far, are the smiles in those photos. The smiles of my clients, and a few years later – the smiles of my children. They look happy. In those moments with me, they are happy.

And I guess that is worth something.

Are there other mothers out there, who question everything they used to think they knew about themselves? Or who have come out on the other side?

Are there music therapists who are still happy in their jobs? Or ones who aren’t?

Whoever you are, I would love to hear your thoughts and perspectives in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith, Parenting

The Beauty of Inadequacy

I jog for a lot of reasons.  For the health benefits, and the feeling of well being it gives me.  For the hope that it will tone my legs (besides doing a number on my knees), and maybe even shrink the roll of baby fat that uncomfortably spills over my waist band.  For the cool, crisp evening air; and the refreshing guzzle of lemon-tinged ice water to follow.

But perhaps, the greatest benefit is the release of my nervous energy at the end of a day.  With each steady, plodding fall of foot upon pavement, my sneakers pound the questions that I’ve grown tired of asking.  Many of them have to do with parenting.  Questions like:

How can I do right by my kids, in every situation?  Are my husband and I steering them in the proper direction?  Are we giving them what they need – always, infallibly, with no developmental area neglected?

One area that I struggle with, for whatever reason, is team sports.  I wasn’t very good at sports growing up, and always felt bad about it.  Therefore, my intention with my own kids was to involve them in it early, so they could develop the abilities I never had.  However, after one and one half seasons of enduring mini soccer alongside my first child, I realized he had little to no interest – and surely did not see sports as implicit to his sense of self-worth, as I had as a child.

On the other hand, he has always loved water and enjoys swimming lessons whenever I’m able to send him.  He also loves to be with friends – goofing off, running around, and playing games – so the kid’s club at church was a win.  I think that this is all great.  But I still worry that I’m shortchanging him, especially when I hear other parents talk about kids who are heavily involved in sports.

As I thought about these things while jogging one evening, and my angsty trudging finally gave way to exhaustion, breathlessness, and its requisite calm, I remembered the Lord. “Please,” I prayed, “let there be nothing neglected.  May there be no inadequacies in the upbringing of our kids.”

His reply came as swiftly as the words left my mind.

“But it is in the inadequacies that I do my greatest work.”

At once, my mind flashed images from my life.  A collage – not of my proudest moments, but those of failure, weakness, lack, and disadvantage.  And I knew in a moment…

My inadequacies, though disappointing, have taught me humility in the place of pride.  They have caused me to refrain from drivenness and instead, to embrace contentment.  They have helped me to develop compassion and mercy, where I would have otherwise been critical and judgmental.

Character is of great value, to Him.  And the way that we treat others.  Can we love them?  Are we even capable?

Give up the selfish ambition.  Then, maybe.  Discover a sense of worth beyond achievements and accomplishments.  Then…perhaps.

If so, that is the best possible outcome.  For myself, and for my kids.

I will close with some of the passages of scripture I could stand to read every day.  And as always, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Philippians 2:1‭-‬4 NIV

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”
James 3:13‭-‬18 NIV

Posted in Faith, Mental health, Parenting

5 Little Pick-me-ups for Tired, Introvert Moms

(Yawn.)  “I’m tired!”

I say it so much, I’m tired of hearing myself say it.  And everyone around me probably is too!

Being tired is often just the normal state of being a parent.  If you’re also an introvert, parenthood can be particularly exhausting.  You need quiet, alone time to recharge your batteries.  But your children (especially the younger ones) may need to be around you basically from sun-up until sun-down.

In the past few weeks, I’ve really enjoyed the slower pace of not having to rush to the bus stop and preschool in the mornings.  I’ve enjoyed lazy mornings around the breakfast table with my boys, and countless walks and bike rides.  However, I have missed the few hours of alone time I would usually get during the week when school and preschool are in session.  Nonetheless, there are some simple strategies that I have been using to keep myself going as best as I can.

Sleep

Umm…duh, right?  But hang on there, just a second.  Like me, you may feel guilty for grabbing a cat nap in the middle of the day if your kids are sleeping or away at school.  But, does that nap leave you feeling replenished and in a better mood?  Are you still able to sleep the following night?  If you let yourself, could you fall asleep right now?

If your answer was yes to these questions, and you are an otherwise healthy person, could it be that you are functioning in a state of sleep deprivation?

I was shocked, when I became a mom, at how much sleep I had to sacrifice.  And not only for the first three months, as I was led to believe.  For years after children are sleeping through the night, parents are awoken for a plethora of reasons such as bad dreams, potty breaks, bed wetting, sicknesses, and random bumps in the night that snap you awake and into “parent mode” for no good reason at all.

Eventually, it takes its toll.  There’s a lot of catching up to do.

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given regarding motherhood was: “If you can take a break, then do.” You can’t take a break, nearly always.  Your kids need you, and you want to be there for them.  But when the house miraculously falls silent, and there is a pause in the constant demands on you, by all means – take it.

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Rest

This point may seem redundant, but it flows from my previous one.  Sleep is great when you have that luxury, but for some kids the napping stage does not last long.  Which means that your napping opportunities are cut short as well.  And even if you have one child who naps, chances are, you have another one who doesn’t or who naps at a different time.

Even if you cannot sleep, there may be a chance for you to sit down during the day and close your eyes for a moment or two.  I use screen time very deliberately with my kids.  Most weekdays, I will turn on the TV for them after lunch for about an hour (which is the time of day that I find myself hitting a wall).  After finding a safe show for them to watch, I’ll sit down somewhere and close my eyes.  Closing your eyes is key here – put away the devices, reading material, and whatever else you may want to occupy yourself with, and close your eyes.  You don’t have to sleep, but chances are you may drift into a slight doze.  I find that even 15 or 20 minutes of this will leave me feeling more refreshed than I was before.

If you don’t want to place your children in front of screens, you can be opportunistic about those moments during the day when they become preoccupied with something for a while, and take a breather then.  If my children are playing nicely in the other room, I may lie down on the couch for a while.  Or if they’ve gone outside to the backyard, I’ll sit down with a cup of tea.  It’s easy for a mom’s day to stretch to the length of 12 hours or more, in addition to being wakened at night, with no days off in between.  Don’t feel like you need to spend the entirety of those hours on your feet.

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Exercise

Ok, I don’t think there’s a better way to get a tired person want to kick you in the teeth, than to tell them they should exercise more.  At least, that’s how I feel when someone tells me so!  However, as difficult as it may be to get going on this one, there is truth to it – as long as, like I mentioned before, you are otherwise a healthy person.  It’s like a little magic bullet.  Add fresh air to the mix for bonus points.  And take your kids with you, to wear them out as well!

Since doing school at home with my son these past few weeks, I have joined in on his Phys-Ed workouts when I can.  From him I’ve learned  how to do a “burpee” and a “squat.”  I’ve braved the wild world of a push-up, and realized how much easier it was to jump rope when I was 9 than it is now.  I’ve cycled against the wind.  I’ve repeatedly chased my 3 year old around our bay on his balance bike.  Each time, it has been a lovely jolt to my system, like some kind of wonderful drug.  “Just do it,” as Nike would have you believe.  And in my unqualified opinion – the more vigorous the exercise, the better the payout.  If you try it, let me know if you agree.

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Get Creative

A writer I follow named Deanne Welsh dropped a thought into my inbox last week that caught my eye.  Its heading was: “Is creativity sustaining you?”  And I would even ask, is creativity nurturing you?  For those who love to be creative (you know who you are), it can be incredibly life-giving to have some kind of free-flowing project on the go.  However, I would caution that if you impose burdens and restrictions on yourself for the outcome of said project, you can rob yourself of the joy it would have otherwise brought.

For example, my main creative outlet is this blog.  However, if I start to worry about all the problems or weaknesses in my blog – not adhering to a consistent schedule, drifting from niche to niche, low stats, etc. – I feel discouraged and my blog becomes a burden, instead of a joy.  Now, those things can be important for bloggers who want to grow their following.  However, what I am encouraging is to not let the outcome of your endeavors (even if they flop) steal the positive effects of creativity on your mental health.  As a music therapist, I am a firm believer in “process over product.”  That is, the experience of creating something can be just as important (if not more so) than the end product itself.

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Pray

My days begin with prayer; my days end with prayer; and I sandwich it in between whenever I can.  No, I’m not on some kind of strict, religious schedule.  Prayer gives me life.  It is my connection to the One who cares for me more than anybody else.  The only One who fully knows and understands who I am and what makes me tick.

I think prayer would be awfully boring if it were a one way street – talking to someone who never speaks back.  Thankfully, that is not the case.

“…his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” John 10:4b‭-‬5 NIV

The thoughts, feelings, pictures, memories, and impressions that the Lord gives to me as I pray or read my Bible are sometimes the only things keeping me calm and behaving as a halfway decent human being.  And even if I don’t really hear Him respond, I know that He is always listening.  Intently.

I have become convinced that God has a soft spot for moms.  This topic could probably comprise a blog post all by itself, but for now, I will leave you with one of my favorite verses.  It reminds me that I am not alone in parenting my kids!

“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones.  For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my father in heaven.”  Matthew 18:10 NIV

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So, there they are – sleep, rest, exercise, creativity, and prayer – 5 things helping me survive (and sometimes even thrive) as an introvert mom.

Are you an introvert mom?  Do you have tricks or ideas to share?  Let me know in the comments section below!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Mental health, Parenting

Just Snow me in Already

The other day, as I was making waffles, a glass measuring cup fell out of the cupboard onto my mixing bowl and cracked it in half.  Flour and eggs spilled onto the counter, poured down the cupboards, and pooled on the floor.  Something about flour and eggs, when they’re mixed together and spilt – they become like cement.  For about a half hour I scraped, vacuumed, scrubbed, and swept, and still didn’t get it all off.

By evening, I had recovered from my supper catastrophe.  The batter had been prepared again, after mourning the loss of four entire eggs and the fact that I would have to go out the next day and buy more to replace them.  The pudding was mixed up, the farmer sausage hurriedly fried, and the fruit chopped.  The family fed.

But I was still feeling frazzled.  I had spent the morning of that day helping in the kids’ area at my church, after which I had been at home with my own two for the afternoon.  Kids are beautiful and wonderful and energetic and wild and just about enough to drive me to madness some days.  

In all of this, there was one recompense: the weather was calling for snow.

FINALLY.

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Why ‘finally,’ you may ask?  Well, I could use a snow day.  Couldn’t you?  A door-busting blizzard, altering the world to a frigid wasteland where no one dares to venture.

School?  Nope, cancelled.  Work?  The roads aren’t safe.  Car won’t start.  Can’t get out of my driveway.  Got frostbite.  (Insert your best excuse here.)   Sorry, I won’t be in today! 

Grocery shopping?  Errands?  Appointments?  Are you crazy?  Not in this weather!

Best to just stay warm in bed.  Let the world stop for a little while.  Hunker down, wait for it to be over (or wish that it would last longer).  Message each other about it on social media.  Compare pictures of whose car is more buried, whose snow cliff around the driveway is higher after shovelling or snowblowing, whose droopy trees are prettier, and whose puffy fence post tops are puffier.  Nothing sounds nicer to me!

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I remember as a kid, a snow day just before Christmas time.  I sat and made a ‘wreath’ by tying garbage bag strips around a bent-open coat hanger.  It was marvelous.

There’s nothing like a day of unproductiveness being forced upon a person.  Especially when you’re a little tired of the chaos; when things have somehow spiralled out of control again – despite your best efforts to keep life sane.

Realistically, I know that now, as an adult, snow days aren’t the same as when I was a kid.  There may be a few lazy moments with my sons around the breakfast table, as we realize that we don’t have to rush out the door like we thought we would have to.  But otherwise, as a stay-at-home-mom, I’ll still have all the same duties and chores – maybe even more, because of that darn snow.  And for those who work outside the home, chances are slim that they would ever get the day off.  There are extension cords, block heaters, battery boosters, snow plows, winter tires, sanding trucks, and tow trucks a-plenty, leaving no real reason to stop the madness for a little while and catch your breath.  (Sigh.)  People, and their stinkin’ resourcefulness.

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But, a person can dream.  Or, at the very least, look out the window, watch the white winds rage, and come to terms with the fact that, “Hey – I could really use a break.”  Because we could, right?  Probably, most of us could.

Have you gotten any real snow dumps yet?  When’s your next vacation?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith, Parenting

Making Peace with the Messy

I had all kinds of thoughts about publishing a post this week with pictures of the pretty Christmas things around my home – the tree, the wreath on the door, our little penguin collection, and the advent calendar that our kids love.  Maybe I would get a batch of cookies baked and take a picture of them, too.

But first, I would have to adjust the tree ornaments the kids have moved around.  Pick up the ones that have dropped on the floor.  Smooth out the tree skirt.  Clean up the mish-mash of blankets, pillows, and teddy bears surrounding the tree.  Push aside the dirty dishes to reveal the advent calendar sitting on the counter behind them.  Glue together the decorations that have broken.  And so on, and so on.

Which got me to thinking about something more interesting, to me, than those picture-perfect Christmas displays: the messes.  Not awful kinds of messes, but the big, beautiful ones that come along with lives being lived.  The messes that you see when you enter the home of a family that has young children.  Gravel on the entrance floor.  Dishes on the counter, and maybe the remnants of lunch.  Toys scattered about.  Small people dashing from room to room.  Half-way completed craft projects shoved into corners.  Pieces of laundry to trip over.

I get embarrassed when my house looks like that, if anyone unexpectedly drops by.  However, if I walk into another person’s house, and it looks like that, I breathe a sigh of relief.  Ah…they, too, are normal.  I don’t think about how they should have picked up the mess before I dropped by.  I marvel at the messes – at the stories the messes tell.  The kinds of foods their children like (or don’t like), and the dishes they eat (or don’t eat) out of.  The creativity displayed by their projects on-the-go.  The powdering of flour and icing sugar on the floor, and the smell of cookies hanging in the air.  What they had been doing outside, before their wet mittens and boots were hurriedly deposited at the door.

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My son attends a weekly kids’ club at our church.  I feel a little overwhelmed, when I walk into that room to pick him up.  8 year-old boys hardly ever stop moving, so the entire place seems to shift ceaselessly, like an anthill.  The air is saturated with the smell of laundry soap and fabric softener, because the kids keep so busy that their bodies heat up and release the fragrances of their clothes.  There are, er…other smells too – some not so pleasant.

And in the midst of it all, are the volunteer leaders.  Adults in the mix of children, a couple at each table.  They smile, and chat with the kids, and make sure they’re not causing too much trouble or getting hurt.  They seem relaxed – tired, perhaps – but at home within the big, beautiful mess.

It makes me think of God.  Isn’t that kind of how He is, in-amongst the big, beautiful mess of people He has created?  Read through the Bible, and you will find things in there that would make most Sunday school teachers cringe.  It is messy business, this thing He is doing.  But He’s committed!  So much so, that He made His home within the mess that we all are.

It’s not always pretty, or clean, or orderly.  But it’s real, and amazing.  It’s Christmas!

With the warmest of wishes for a big, messy, beautiful Christmas –

Lisa